Sherwin-Williams’ new HQ+R&D = 6,000 jobs for downtown Cleveland

City Planning Commission approved this banner for the side
of the current Sherwin-Williams headquarters in 2016. Soon,
SHW’s land will be along the north side of Superior Avenue
and will accommodate its new headquarters, research facili-
ties and 6,000 jobs from throughout the world (CPC).

Sherwin-Williams’ (SHW) top executives are urging department heads to consolidate as many activities and jobs as possible from around the world into its new headquarters and research facilities.

The end result of that directive is that SHW’s global headquarters plus research and development (HQ+R&D) center could add 2,500 jobs, bringing the total for the entire campus to 6,000 employees, according to sources who spoke off the record and provided internal company data.

As reported here at NEOtrans in recent days and weeks, SHW plans to build its HQ+R&D on the west side of Public Square in downtown Cleveland. SHW has begun the process of buying land currently owned by the Jacobs and Weston groups. Barring a startling change of direction, it means downtown Cleveland will be the beneficiary of thousands of new and relocated jobs.

SHW already has about 3,500 jobs downtown, spread among SHW’s HQ at 101 W. Prospect Ave., the neighboring Skylight Office Tower, and the John G. Breen Technology Center, 601 Canal Rd.

The job projections are coming into focus as SHW’s facility programming rapidly progresses. Programming is an early phase of the building planning process. For office buildings, departmental managers are queried about their current and projected staffing, space needs and patterns of use for the coming years.

From those numbers, architects begin to assemble blocks of space to be shaped and molded according to a variety of factors, ranging from the available land to the personal preferences of C-suite executives.

That process is well underway for SHW and its architect Vocon Partners LLC which is designing the interiors of the coatings giant’s new global HQ+R&D facilities. It is likely another architect will be brought in to design the exteriors of those facilities, sources said.

The additional jobs for downtown Cleveland are based on the departmental feedback SHW executives and Vocon architects received by their deadline last week.

This is what 3.5 million square feet of new development in
Weston’s Superblock would look like, based on a discontinued
Weston plan. Sherwin-Williams is planning 1.8 million square
feet of offices and research facilities plus perhaps 500,000 to 1
million square feet of structured parking. The street in the mid-
dle of this east-looking massing is Frankfort Avenue (Weston).

Five years ago, SHW outgrew its HQ of the last 89 years. So SHW has spread its Cuyahoga County workforce among a half-dozen facilities. Plus there are hundreds of jobs in other cities that SHW reportedly would like to have at its HQ but can’t due to lack of space.

In Cuyahoga County, in addition to the SHW jobs downtown, the Fortune 500 company also has more than 250 employees at a 151,830-square-foot office/flex space located at 4770-4780 Hinckley Industrial Parkway in Cleveland.

It also has several hundred employees at its 388,766-square-foot Automotive Finishes Corp. global headquarters, research and development facility and training center, located at 4440 Warrensville Center Rd., Warrensville Hts. About 100 employees are office workers and might move downtown.

The office employment doesn’t tell the full story either, because part of the spatial needs involves employees visiting from offices, laboratories and stores located around the world for training.

SHW’s HQ will have a lot more of those visitors, especially as training of vice presidents, salespeople, information technology, human resources and other on-the-job development will all be consolidated downtown, sources said.

There is a lot to consolidate. SHW rents offices and classroom spaces at Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland’s University Circle area for training activities.

SHW’s new training center will also be downtown, likely resulting in the reduction of activities at its 24,150-square-foot Strongsville Training Center, 11350 Alameda Dr. where as many as 300 employees are based. A model store and small training staff will likely remain.

According to data acquired by NEOtrans, the number of people visiting SHW’s seminars and three-day-long training classes would fill more than 100 hotel rooms every weeknight for an entire year. And that number will grow as SHW grows.

Looking west from Public Square along Superior Avenue in
2014, the Jacobs lot in the right-foreground and the Weston
Superblock beyond is nearly 8 acres of parking lots in the
heart of downtown Cleveland. Purchase contracts, geo-
technical surveys and Certificates of Disclosure for
SHW’s HQ+R&D have finally put those desolate
parking lots in serious danger (Google).

Currently, most visitors stay in hotels off Interstate 71 in Middleburg Heights. Those hotel occupants will follow the training center downtown. By staying at downtown hotels, more trainees might be encouraged to stay an extra night to attend a sporting event, enjoy a Playhouse Square show or visit a museum or two.

Another activity to be consolidated downtown is research. The 140,293-square-foot Breen Center is so cramped that it could not accept any of Valspar’s R&D workers from Minneapolis after SHW acquired its northern rival in 2017.

Valspar’s 170,000-square-foot facility is equally cramped. It has roughly 400 workers, meaning that both facilities have 425 square feet of space per research worker. According to sources, the new R&D facility in downtown Cleveland will measure 350,000 square feet, or about 500 square feet per research worker.

The office component for SHW’s HQ is estimated at 1.45 million square feet, sources say. The projected total cost of SHW’s HQ+R&D facilities could be upwards of $1 billion.

SHW’s efforts took a substantive step forward on Oct. 8 when it and Welty Building Co., SHW’s facilities consultant, chose Gilbane Building Co. as its construction management firm for the new HQ+R&D.

Those HQ+R&D facilities are slated to be built on 7.93 acres of land owned by the Jacobs Group and the Weston Group to the west of downtown Cleveland’s Public Square. SHW continues to advance its due diligence on those properties. They have been used as parking lots for decades.

The due diligence includes contracting out for geotechnical surveying of soil samples in recent weeks. Surveying work began in the 6.76 acres of Weston lots Nov. 2 and continued for several days.

Survey wells were drilled into the Jacobs
lot on Public Square in the past week and
then capped so that crews could return on
a recurring basis to check groundwater
levels and possibly remove water from
the ground over many months prior to
excavation and construction (KJP).

During the week of Nov. 11, survey crews moved over to the Jacobs lot where they drilled wells to monitor groundwater for an extended period of time and/or possibly to remove it prior to excavation for the foundations of a headquarters tower.

Five years ago, SHW hired AECOM to conduct geotechnical surveys of the Jacobs lot when it considered building a 1-million-square-foot headquarters here. SHW already knows a lot about the soil conditions far below the Jacobs lot.

Plans for the HQ tower were shelved in 2016 when SHW turned its resources toward acquiring Valspar. SHW’s growth accelerated after acquiring Valspar, making the new HQ+R&D an even more critical need.

SHW’s due diligence advanced further last week. NEOtrans was advised days in advance by a source that SHW would begin filing Certificates of Disclosure with the city of Cleveland. Such certificates are submitted by persons or corporations seeking to buy land. The filings serve as requests to the city for disclosures about the properties’ histories.

Sure enough, starting on Nov. 15, a title company began filing Certificates of Disclosure with the city for parcels in the Weston lots. The filings provided a public corroboration of high-level sources who said SHW came to the conclusion that the Jacobs and Weston lots were the best location for its HQ+R&D after considering a dozen alternatives in Greater Cleveland.

No sites outside of Greater Cleveland were pursued by SHW and Welty, the sources said. In fact, SHW/Welty approached only one property owner outside of downtown Cleveland — the DiGeronimo Co. which owns the former VA Hospital site in Brecksville. Even then, SHW considered it only for the R&D facility, not the HQ.

NEOtrans began reporting on SHW’s pursuit of a new HQ+R&D facility on Oct. 31, 2018, more than ten months before SHW finally acknowledged it publicly. SHW announced it was pursuing a new HQ+R&D on Sept. 12.

Two city sources said SHW may announce the site for its new HQ+R&D facilities as early as next month.


7 thoughts on “Sherwin-Williams’ new HQ+R&D = 6,000 jobs for downtown Cleveland”

  1. I do not understand the need for R&D to be near the main administrative/planning/marketing, etc. offices. I think near CASE quad would be preferred. For example, near the end of Carnegie and the base of Cedar Hill…where there are good options

  2. SHW executives like having the R&D so close by as staff can make in-person presentations or execs can quickly pay a visit to R&D staff. I'm told they really like being in walking distance. And, BTW, since SHW does military/government contracts, they prefer to have the data/info delivered in person rather than through networks that are vulnerable to cyber attacks/industrial espionage.

  3. Ken,

    Your thoughts on the article written earlier last week in Crain's trying to tout that other out of state options are on the table still like Atlanta? It seems like nothing more than saber rattling at this point? I can't understand why Crain's would even publish that piece. Reading everything you've researched and layed out so logically makes me think it's just a piece made to catch the attention of local media and garnish views so to speak? Or is there any real merit to that article?

    Thanks and keep up the amazing work! Love what you do!

  4. From people who are directly involved in the HQ project, they've told me that they never looked or were never asked to look outside of Greater Cleveland. And only one site outside of downtown Cleveland (Brecksville) was considered, and that was only for the R&D facility. Thanks for reading and for your question!

  5. That is interesting, Ken, but might R&D be more effective without execs looking over their shoulders, so to speak. (R&D trumps convenience, IMO)

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